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Not shying away from truths...

I am proud of this university’s DNA.

I land in tough situations sometimes.

We attract the type of person who wants to make a real difference in the world. One of the principle reasons students apply to Guelph includes a desire to be involved in the community. Volunteering is a part of what we are. This university draws and creates people who understand the value and importance of volunteering.

Front and centre, we are an institution that works aggressively on genetics. This causes immediate and complete friction inside and outside the institution. But it is imperative for universities and their leaders to speak out - however challenging, awkward or difficult. And that is what I do.

What that means is we have a campus that is engaged beyond studies and research. In fact, over 70% of the university’s students, staff and faculty spend more than five hours of their time per week volunteering. If you use the number of hours in minimum wage dollar value, that equates to a value of $10.6 million dollars within the Guelph region.

We must always stand up and be accountable for the things that are good or need explaining. When we make mistakes, we need to say sorry and learn from the experience, knowing there are no right or wrong answers today that will be the same tomorrow.

This has incredible long-term repercussions. Just imagine the social and economic impact that results every time Guelph graduates leave the campus, spending the rest of their lives giving of themselves wherever they end up in the world.

The underlying meaning of innovation... This university has had a research park for over 20 years. It started in one place and has evolved beyond its beginnings, becoming an integral outreach entity for the campus. Its changes are entirely in line with how we approach innovation. Innovation means change. It begins with a willingness to debate and take a leadership position that challenges the process. This doesn’t always mean things are always broken. If they are working well, people will tell you and there will be reason not to change. But by constantly asking the right questions, by challenging the status quo and by rethinking the old ways, new ideas will arise. The path towards doing things differently or better will ultimately spark innovation.

Rethinking volunteerism... In doing our own rethinking about how we deliver education and asking ourselves where the fit is for our inclination toward volunteerism, we’ve sparked our own new ideas. We have begun a conversation around the establishment of a school for civil society. Our vision re-imagines how education and community engagement for credit can create more active learning, going beyond traditional teaching models.

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University of Guelph’s DNA...

It is the confrontational, complex discussions that will take us nearer the truth.

Talking to tough topics... As Canadians, we pride ourselves as being peacemakers, even though there a lot of things we have done lately that say otherwise. Then there are water, climate change, and genetic modification to think about. These are all big topics society needs to discuss. Yet universities have abdicated on these discussions, leaving the heavy lifting to the media, who have their own motivation. We need everyone inside the tent when we talk about these things and all voices talking. We need to value debate and discourse in a productive, respectful and professional manner.

What keeps you up at night... As an individual who does not sleep much in the first place, I don’t worry about the things that might keep me up, with one exception. What most distresses me is when I have a level of trust in people and that trust is betrayed. I am not speaking about failing at all. This is about trusting a person or a process will be taken seriously and someone deliberately and willfully lets me down. That is what turns over and over in my mind.

Understanding the things you will never do... The one life ambition I will never realize is that I will never sing opera on the stage. I am fascinated by music and in particular, opera. I still find it hard to understand how people can look at a score and not hear the music. The very first time I was taken away by the “Ring” cycle, I was in the library in Bristol, still a young veterinary student. I was reading the music, and suddenly, as I read, it was as if the score leapt off the page and became a full orchestra. The music I heard from those pages was so loud, I had to abandon the book and exit the library.

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Canada NOW 2012  

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